Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday, January 13th, authorizing a “design-build procurement process” for a northbound high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) Freeway, between the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) and Route 101.

Senate Bill 1026, authored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, authorizes the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), in consultation with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), to use a design-build procurement process in order to construct an HOV lane on the stretch of the freeway.

“I am very pleased that the governor is on board with our long-term efforts to improve transportation in California,” said Kuehl, whose district includes Santa Monica.

“The Legislature worked together with the Mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa) and Congressman Howard Berman in order to give the MTA and Caltrans a way to meet the federal funding deadline and to begin to make our highways less congested.”

The bill also requires the MTA to establish and enforce labor compliance programs, such as prevailing wage and safety standards, as a condition to utilization of this design-build procurement process.

Officials say Senate Bill 1026 is important to commuters, as well as to commercial traffic, as surveys show that the 405 Freeway is one of the most congested and heavily trafficked highways in the country.

Last year Berman secured $130 million in federal funds for the San Diego Freeway northbound HOV project, which, combined with state and local funds, is expected to fully fund the project.

The federal funds may be lost if construction has not begun by the time the federal highway legislation expires in 2009, officials say.

The project must go through environmental reviews and preliminary engineering before construction can begin.

Senate Bill 1026 will give Los Angeles’s two transportation agencies the ability to use a design-build procurement process on a project that officials say is crucial to relieving the congestion on the San Diego Freeway as well as the Ventura-San Diego Freeways interchange.

Both agencies believe that this procurement process, in which both the design and construction of a project are procured from a single entity, will allow them to break ground in time to meet the federal deadline.

“As a legislator from the Los Angeles region, I will continue to do what I can to stop gridlock and keep California moving,” Kuehl said. “I believe that SB 1026 is a modest, but necessary, step towards improving traffic and the overall quality of life in Los Angeles.”